Sunday, October 26, 2014

More on reading routines, and a dilemma

I wrote in a recent post about trying to get into a routine of reading and online math practice with my 7-year-old. I’m happy to report that once I figured out how to log on to the school-specific Dreambox site, my son has been perfectly happy to play with it. He requested Dreambox instead of a TV show a few times this weekend, so I think that’s a win.

The reading routine presented more of a dilemma the other night. It had been a busy day, and he hadn’t done his official 20 minutes of reading. Among the reasons he hadn’t: He’d been constructing his own Harry Potter fan fiction, writing several chapters in this new book, and telling me he’d probably need 800 pieces of paper from my printer paper stash. I think writing is a great way to get better at reading, but it doesn’t really fit on the homework log so well. I hadn’t pushed it until night when we realized he still hadn’t done it yet. I came into his room to tuck him in and check that he was reading. But he wasn’t...because he was constructing his own new language. He’d come up with names of numbers all the way to 120, and had created a worksheet labeling all them, and then started in on the shapes, which all have their own names too.

So the dilemma: tell him he needs to stop and read 20 minutes in a “real” book, or let him continue with this creative project that so fascinated him? What would you do?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Building online math time and reading into the routine

We're a month into second grade now with my oldest kid, and we're figuring out how to build a good homework routine. Fortunately, he has very little in the way of make-work homework. He brings home a few math worksheets (about 4/week) but he has the whole week to do them, and it takes less than 15 minutes, so this is not too onerous. The remainder of the homework has more of a point. His school is now signed up with Dreambox (a math program that is adaptive -- another plus. Previous ones the school has have not been adaptive, and hence got boring very fast). He's supposed to do at least half an hour of Dreambox over the week, though ideally more. He's also supposed to read for 20 minutes a night (much preferable for literacy than worksheets, too!).

Obviously, none of this is particularly time-consuming, but we've been trying to figure out when best to build it in to make it a routine. The reading can happen before bed if he's got a good book. He's in a semi-shared space with his little brother, though, and they often prefer to play at night. Turning on the computer for math homework then inspires requests from other siblings to turn on the TV, the Kindle Fire, etc. for cartoons. Right after school is hard because he doesn't feel like focusing.

So for those of you who've figured out a good time for doing online math practice, when is that? If your kids do daily reading time at home, when do you build it in? I welcome tips.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Screen everyone

Pennsylvania requires that schools serve their gifted students, but to serve students you must identify them. How do you do that?

My district has not had a great system for this. Basically, you had to request to have your child screened. This wasn't advertised, so people learned about this option through word-of-mouth: If you knew people with older kids who'd figured this out, and if you were involved enough in the school to have such lines of communication open.

There are obvious problems with such an approach. I'm not sure that giftedness would be correlated with parents' social capital. So I was pleased to see a notice come home the other day that the district will be changing the approach. From now on, all first graders will be screened.

To be sure, there are limitations with this too. Any screen given to everyone will likely be cursory. Nonetheless, the idea is a good one. Screening everyone is the best way to avoid biases that both parents and teachers can bring to the table.

Does your district screen all students for giftedness? In what grade? Of course, what is then done with the results is often a different matter...